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Geoscientist Online

They do things differently there

xhkThe past is indeed a foreign country, to misquote L P Hartley, and here is a little book  which amply illustrates that point.

This short paperback is the sort of thing you might pack to read on a journey, and it is like going backstage at a theatre to watch the background activity during a play; only the play is the work of geologists of the Overseas Geological Survey during the 1960s onwards.

It is not actually a book about geology or even the geologists themselves, but the anecdotes of those people as they went about their tasks, during what sounds today like a pioneering era. A time which paid little heed, it would seem, to health and safety, processes , technology  or anything other than just  trying  to get on with the job with paper and pencil, manhandling barrels of fuel, and   otherwise flying by the seats of their pants.

I remember hearing some of these stories from the ‘horse’s mouth’  while  I was  on brief secondments from  IGS in the 1970s, and it is a delight that they have now put some of the stories on paper for others to enjoy and chew over.

This may be inspirational to some aspiring geologists, so it might be of proffered at careers events; it will probably be valued for the historical context in due time.  But for the rest of us we can sit back and just enjoy the descriptions of the travails of a select band of geologists and their support staff travelling the world.

The book is presented as a series of short stories,   mapping out the evolution of the service from the 1960s to 2011.  For my part I don’t think we do enough of this sort of thing; just who were the personalities  to who have worked for our geological institutions?  If there is a weakness with this book it is that there are too few photographs and background of the geologists themselves.

With the advantage of hindsight, our society is clearly living off the fruits of their labour, so perhaps we would do well to reflect upon some of their efforts.

Reviewed by Arthur Tingley

THEY DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY THERE – STORIES FROM THE INTERNATIONAL DIVISION OF THE BRITISH GEOLOGICAL SURVEY by A J REEDMAN &  D G BATE (Eds).  2016 Aspect Design. 338pp, sbk. ISBN 978-1908832894 List Price £12.99.